From the Heart

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The Psychology of Obesity

Mind and body approach for weight management

We are all aware that people put on weight because they eat more calories than they burn leading to obesity. Currently, nearly 30% of Americans are considered obese, and now the problem is increasingly prevalent in kids as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the U.S. obesity rate has doubled between 1997 and 2012, plus they estimate that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030.

This Tuesday the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a new policy that declares obesity as a chronic disease. Previously, AMA considered obesity to be simply a major public health concern and had not yet defined it as a disease. Now, according to an AMA statement, obesity is now a disease “requiring a range of medical interventions to advance treatment and prevention.”

The obesity epidemic raises a host of questions aimed directly at the psychology of eating, especially analyzing why Americans are eating more today than they used to. Is it primarily because food is everywhere at any time and advertising is an additional lure? Does it have more to do with the large portions served at restaurants that have retrained us to think eating large meals is acceptable? Could it be related to lifestyle changes and lack of time left for healthy meal planning, causing more people to eat most meals out or on the go? All these boundaries and changes through the years have negatively affected weight management.

Genetic factors play a key role in obesity, but so behavioral factors. Stress, sadness, anxiety, depression, lack of self-appreciation, and other emotions can lead people to eat too much and/or exercise too little leading to obesity.

A major aspect of weight management involves understanding and managing thought and behaviors that can interfere with weight loss. Psychologists believe that weight loss isn’t about strict dieting, but instead they favor holistic approaches that address both body and mind. For more information on obesity read more at drcynthia.com

Cynthia Thaik, M.D., is a Harvard trained physician and currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine

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